WHO hails FB pledge to check anti-vac­cine info

The Korea Times - - HEALTH -

LON­DON (REUTERS) — The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said on Thurs­day it wel­comed a com­mit­ment by Face­book that it would di­rect users seek­ing vac­cine in­for­ma­tion on its Instagram, Face­book Search, Groups and other fo­rums to­wards facts, not mis­in­for­ma­tion.

Af­ter sev­eral months of talks with the WHO, Face­book has pledged to di­rect its users to “ac­cu­rate and re­li­able vac­cine in­for­ma­tion in sev­eral lan­guages” on the WHO’s web­site, the United Na­tions health agency said, “to en­sure that vi­tal health mes­sages reach peo­ple who need them the most”.

“Ma­jor dig­i­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions have a responsibi­lity to their users — to en­sure that they can ac­cess facts about vac­cines and health,” the WHO said in a state­ment.

“Vac­cine mis­in­for­ma­tion is a ma­jor threat to global health that could re­v­erse decades of progress made in tack­ling pre­ventable dis­eases,” it said. Deadly in­fec­tious dis­eases such as measles, diph­the­ria, hep­ati­tis, po­lio, cholera and yel­low fever can all be pre­vented with im­mu­niza­tion, it noted.

Face­book con­firmed in a state­ment that it is “start­ing to roll out more ways to con­nect peo­ple with au­thor­i­ta­tive in­for­ma­tion about vac­cines on Face­book and Instagram”.

It also said it would re­duce the rank­ing of groups and pages that spread mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­ci­na­tions in its News Feed and Search­func­tions, and would re­ject any ads it finds that in­clude mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­ci­na­tions.

The WHO says vac­cines are one of the most pow­er­ful in­no­va­tions in pub­lic health his­tory and es­ti­mates that they save at least 2 mil­lion lives ev­ery year world­wide.

Im­mu­niza­tion means mil­lions more chil­dren avoid be­com­ing in­fected with de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­eases that would re­sult in long hospi­tal stays and time out of school, the WHO says.

But mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­ci­na­tion has spread far on so­cial me­dia in many coun­tries in re­cent years in­clud­ing dur­ing ma­jor vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns to pre­vent po­lio in Pak­istan and to im­mu­nize against yel­low fever in South Amer­ica.

First in English and then in other lan­guages, vac­cine-re­lated searches on Face­book and Instagram from users out­side of the United States will lead to in­for­ma­tion from the WHO, and take U.S.-based users to in­for­ma­tion from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC).

Face­book’s move fol­lows a sim­i­lar de­ci­sion by the so­cial me­dia com­pany Pinterest Inc, which last week said its users search­ing vac­cine-re­lated top­ics, such as “measles” or “vac­cine safety”, would get re­sults from or­ga­ni­za­tions like the WHO, the CDC, the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics and the WHO-backed Vac­cine Safety Net.

The WHO said such moves by so­cial me­dia “must be matched by tan­gi­ble steps by gov­ern­ments and the health sec­tor” to pro­mote trust in vac­ci­na­tion and re­spond to con­cerns of par­ents.


World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion head­quar­ters in Geneva, Switzer­land

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